The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on Monday closed inquiries into nine corruption cases related to irrigation projects in the state, but said that none of these involved Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, ANI reported.
On Saturday, Pawar, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party, was sworn in as the deputy chief minister after siding with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had targeted him for the scam in the run-up to last month’s Assembly elections.
Anti-Corruption Bureau Director General Parambir Singh told ANI that none of the cases that were closed on Monday were related to Pawar, as reports had suggested earlier. “This is a conditional closure, which means the state or the court can reopen the case,” an official told PTI.
“We are investigating around 3,000 tenders in irrigation-related complaints,” the official told PTI. “These are routine inquiries which are closed and all ongoing investigations are continuing as they were earlier.”
After the reports about the cases being closed, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted that “contract killing” of democracy had now also become “contract killing” of honesty and accountability in Maharashtra. “No wonder, the only decision taken in ‘public interest’ by BJP-Ajit Pawar is to close all cases of corruption and malfeasance,” he said. “The BJP way of probity in public life.”
The irrigation scam dates back to 2009, when Pawar was the state’s water resources minister. He was accused of approving projects worth Rs 20,000 crore without seeking the clearance of the Governing Council of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.
The case was first reported in 2012 after Vijay Pandhare, then the chief engineer in the water resources department, wrote letters to the state government detailing irregularities and cost variations in the project. Pawar resigned because of the scandal, but was later re-inducted into the state Cabinet after being cleared of all charges.
However, when the Bharatiya Janata Party came into power in the state in 2014, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis approved the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s proposal to investigate Pawar and other senior NCP leaders. The inquiry had been going on since then.